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Bob The Magic Custodian
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
I applied price discovery algorithms to 5 Min OHLCV data from Bitmex and CME contracts and Bitstamp, Coinbase, HitBTC, Kraken, Poloniex, Binance, and OkEx BTCUSD/BTCUSDT markets from March 2016 to May 2020. Some exciting results I got was:
Before the 2017/18 bull run, Bitfinex dominated the price discovery process. They started the run. But as the price increased, trades on other exchanges, Binance and Bitstamp played a more dominant role in leading the price up.
Since then, CME Contracts and Bitmex contracts have had an increasing role in price discovery. Today Bitmex and CME Contracts play the most substantial role in determining the direction of Bitcoin price.
In 2020, market dominance by Bitmex has been negatively correlated with price. Dominance by Bitfinex, Huobi and OkCoin has had high positive correlation with price.
Price discovery is the overall process of setting the price of an asset. Price discovery algorithms identify the leader exchanges whose traders define the price. Two approaches are most famous for use in Price Discovery. Gonzalo and Granger (1995) and Hasbrouck (1995). But they assume random walk, and a common efficient price. I do not feel comfortable assuming random walk and common efficient price in Bitcoin Markets. So I used this little know method by De Blasis (2019) for this analysis. This work assumes that "the fastest price to reflect new information releases a price signal to the other slower price series." I thought this was valid in our market. It uses Markov Chains to measure Price Discovery. Without going into the mathematical details the summary steps used was:
Data is first grouped into a daily interval. Then inside each daily interval's 5-minute candles, the change in prices between the current time t and previous time t-1 is calculated. The difference across the same time t across all exchanges in a given day is juxtaposed to create an initial matrix.
The initial matrix is used to create a Transition Matrix, which measures the probability of price changing to something else at time t+1 for its state at t.
Then other Markov Chain based algorithms are used to measure the influence an exchange at time t had over all other exchanges' price movement at time t+1 individually.
Reduction and normalization is done to this data. In the end, each exchange receives a single number that sums to 1 for a given day.
De Blasis (2019) names this number Price Leadership Share (PLS). High PLS indicates a large role in price discovery. As the sum of the numbers is 1, they can be looked at as a percentage contribution. I recommend reading the original paper if you are interested to know more about the mathematical detail.
Andersen (2000) argues that 5 Minute window provides the best trade-off between getting enough data and avoiding noise. In one of the first work on Bitcoin's Price Discovery, Brandvold et al. 2015 had used 5M window. So I obtained 5M OHLCV data using the following sources:
Poloniex, Bitfinex, Binance and HitBTC: Exchange's API through CCXT.
CME: Okay, this was was supposed to be tricky and expensive. I broke a TOS and scraped the data for free, removing the expensive part from the equation. I will not go into detail about where I scraped this data.
Futures data are different from other data because multiple futures contract trades at the same time. I formed a single data from the multiple time series by selecting the nearest contract until it was three days from expiration. I used the next contract when the contract was three days from expiration. This approach was advocated by Booth et al ( 1999 )
I can't embed the chart on reddit so open this https://warproxxx.github.io/static/price_discovery.html In the figure above, each colored line shows the total influence the exchange had towards the discovery of Bitcoin Price on that day. Its axis is on the left. The black line shows a moving average of the bitcoin price at the close in Bitfinex for comparison. The chart was created by plotting the EMA of price and dominance with a smoothing factor of 0.1. This was done to eliminate the noise. Let's start looking from the beginning. We start with a slight Bitfinex dominance at the start. When the price starts going up, Bitfinex's influence does too. This was the time large Tether printing was attributed to the rise of price by many individuals. But Bitfinex's influence wanes down as the price starts rising (remember that the chart is an exponential moving average. Its a lagging indicator). Afterward, exchanges like Binance and Bitstamp increase their role, and there isn't any single leader in the run. So although Bitfinex may have been responsible for the initial pump trades on other exchanges were responsible for the later rally. CME contracts were added to our analysis in February 2018. Initially, they don't have much influence. On a similar work Alexandar and Heck (2019) noted that initially CBOE contracts had more influence. CBOE later delisted Bitcoin futures so I couldn't get that data. Overall, Bitmex and CME contracts have been averaging around 50% of the role in price discovery. To make the dominance clear, look at this chart where I add Bitmex Futures and Perp contract's dominance figure to create a single dominance index. There bitmex leads 936 of the total 1334 days (Bitfinex leads 298 days and coinbase and binance get 64 and 6 days). That is a lot. One possible reason for this might be Bitmex's low trading fee. Bitmex has a very generous -0.025% maker fee and price discovery tend to occur primarily in the market with smaller trading costs (Booth et al, 1999). It may also be because our market is mature. In mature markets, futures lead the price discovery.
Table 1: Days Lead
Out of 1334 days in the analysis, Bitmex futures leads the discovery in 571 days or nearly 43% of the duration. Bitfinex leads for 501 days. Bitfinex's high number is due to its extreme dominance in the early days.
Table 2: Correlation between the close price and Exchange's dominance index
Binance, Huobi, CME, and OkCoin had the most significant correlation with the close price. Bitmex, Coinbase, Bitfinex, and Bitstamp's dominance were negatively correlated. This was very interesting. To know more, I captured a yearwise correlation.
Table 3: Yearwise Correlation between the close price and Exchange's dominance index Price movement is pretty complicated. If one factor, like a dominant exchange, could explain it, everyone would be making money trading. With this disclaimer out of the way, let us try to make some conclusions. This year Bitfinex, Huobi, and OkEx, Tether based exchanges, discovery power have shown a high correlation with the close price. This means that when the traders there become successful, price rises. When the traders there are failing, Bitmex traders dominate and then the price is falling. I found this interesting as I have been seeing the OkEx whale who has been preceding price rises in this sub. I leave the interpretation of other past years to the reader.
My analysis does not include market data for other derivative exchanges like Huobi, OkEx, Binance, and Deribit. So, all future market's influence may be going to Bitmex. I did not add their data because they started having an impact recently. A more fair assessment may be to conclude this as the new power of derivative markets instead of attributing it as the power of Bitmex. But Bitmex has dominated futures volume most of the time (until recently). And they brought the concept of perpetual swaps.
There is a lot in this data. If you are making a trading algo think there is some edge here. Someday I will backtest some trading logic based on this data. Then I will have more info and might write more. But, this analysis was enough for to shift my focus from a Bitfinex based trading algorithm to a Bitmex based one. It has been giving me good results. If you have any good ideas that you want me to write about or discuss further please comment. If there is enough interest in this measurement, I can setup a live interface that provides the live value.
￼ ￼ Dogecoin surges to dizzying heights amid TikTok hype Oliver Knight July 9, 2020, 6:27 am Dogecoin, a longstanding staple of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, has been struck by a remarkably unexpected rally over the past 48-hours, with it now trading 82% higher against Bitcoin than it was two days ago. The meme-friendly digital asset, which was created as a joke in 2013, has emerged as a target for millions of TikTok users that claim it will rally all the way to $1. The #DOGE hashtag now has millions of posts on both TikTok and Twitter, with cryptocurrency exchanges responding by listing both futures and perpetual swap contracts of the cryptocurrency. This morning Binance revealed that as of tomorrow customers can trade Doge/USDT with up to 50x leverage. Bitfinex, meanwhile, announced that it will list MDOGE with a conversion rate of one million as it attempts to capitalise on the recent wave of hype. ￼ While a coin like Doge pumping unsustainably may seem like fun, investors should be wary about using leveraged products as it massively increases the risk of liquidation. To be clear, this is not financial advice but retail investors should be cautious about buying into an asset that has already made substantial gains on the back of a viral social media post, especially when Doge has been the recipient of a number of pump and dumps over the past two years. Looking at Dogecoin’s chart, the current level of 50 sats has been a historical point of support and resistance dating all the way back to 2015, which means price may be halted here unless another wave of volume comes in. For more news, guides and cryptocurrency analysis, click here. Update privacy choices
Bitroom： world's first membership-based cryptocurrency exchange.
Bitroom WEBSITE-WHITE PAPER-TWITTER-TELEGRAM EN-TELEGRAM CH-TELEGRAM KO-TELEGRAM RU-Kakaotalk KO Bitroom Introduction 1. What is Bitroom.io Bitroom is the world's first membership-based cryptocurrency exchange. Bitroom.io guarantees to participants in the Launchpad at least 200% return. Adhering to the original intention of promoting the consensus between the project and investors, mutual benefit and mutual win situation, the first "membership" model, to provide users with safe and convenient digital asset exchange services. By selecting and introducing quality blockchain projects around the world, we are committed to providing our members with a richer market investment option, better experience and more opportunities for high returns. 2. Bitroom Features Member Priority Bitroom will select and introduce high-quality blockchain projects around the world, and is committed to providing members with better market investment options, better experience and more opportunities for high returns. On the Bitroom platform, every member has an equal opportunity to participate in the investment of early quality projects. Bitroom will protect the member's investment income and returns most of the platform's revenue to the members. Open and Transparent To win the trust of the community, Bitroom is committed to creating an open and transparent virtual currency trading platform. This includes:
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4. Conditions of Membership Users become members, with all relevant membership benefits, once they hold a certain minimum amount of platform currency. Innovative ITO modeITO Platform Currency Distribution Method ITO (Initial Trust Offering) includes three important aspects: fundraising, Token distribution, and fund return. The ITO model is open and transparent and 80% of the funds raised will be returned to the user and can be verified. This model allows the project side and the user to reach a consensus, which is a good solution to the problem of mutual trust. 1. ITO — Introduction The core Bitcoin concept is based on the building of consensus between a project party and the decentralized investor community. The transaction status and the amount of money held are necessarily open and transparent. Bitcoin earnings are owned simultaneously by long-term holders and the community. Thus, the success or failure of a project depends on their ability to reach consensus. Failure to do so can result from a wrong choice of ICO versus IEO tokens. Or it might be a lack of transparency by the project side in its use of funds raised. This can lead to loss of community trust and ultimately confrontation. The Bitroom team believes in Bitcoin. In order to reach a consensus between a project and the community, Bitroom has innovatively createdå the Model of Initial Trust Offering (ITO). Under the ITO model, the project party publicly and transparently raises funds from the community on the blockchain. The project party then announces a fundraising address and a Token distribution address, with all funds raised sent to that address. Token distributions are all transferred through the same distribution address, Fundraising is carried out on the blockchain, Each transaction and the number of positions at each address can be publicly queried. After fundraising is completed, the project party will return 80% of the money to the community as income. This operation is likewise visible on the blockchain. Each return is visible on the blockchain, as is each return operation. The remaining 20% of the funds raised will be used to support the project to move forward. It can be seen that each step of the ITO model is open and transparent and that each move by the project party and the community, both, is well documented in the blockchain, thus enhancing mutual trust. After the platform closes, the project side will return 80% of funds raised to the community, with the remaining 20% to be used by the project side for promoting project development. ITO is a great innovation, with real capacity to bring about consensus between the project side and the community. Bitroom's platform currency will be distributed in the form of ITO. 2. ITO Characteristics
Open and Transparent Initial Trust Offering (ITO) mainly includes three important aspects: fundraising, token distribution, and funds returned. Each part is carried out on the blockchain. There, each behavior of the project party and the community is well documented, making the transaction process auditable, traceable, and non-tamperable. In other words, truly open and transparent.
80% of funds raised returned to user community ITO's funding derives from the investor community. In order to consolidate the trust system with the community, 80% of the funds raised will be returned to the community and 20% will be used to cover the project side’s development and operation costs. In this way, the project side and the community are no longer in opposition. Instead, a real consensus has been reached.
Verifiability Bitcoin innovatively proposed the Proof of Work (PoW) mechanism to verify the activities of Bitcoin miners, thus providing Bitcoin a reward. In the ITO process, data such as transaction information in the blockchain are public and transparent, and the blockchain browser is the address for querying blockchain transaction records. Community members can use it to view their own transaction information as well as other stored blockchain information information.
3. ITO distribution ITO distribution
A total of 100,000,000 BMT is used for distribution during the ITO phase.
74,565,864 BMT is allocated as ITO.
3,000,000 BMT is assigned to Launchpad.
22,434,136 BMT is allocated to marketing, partners, airdrops, etc.
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This is a compilation of everything suspicious I found with Quadriga. Please let me know if there’s anything incorrect or missing Early History (2013-2017)
QuadrigaCX started in 2013 and made history by being the first crypto exchange to register with FINTRAC and accept gold bullion deposits. By 2015, Quadriga became Canada’s largest crypto exchange. So far, so good.
In March 2015, Quadriga attempted to go public and a month later, announced its intention to install Bitcoin ATMs across Canada. Both these plans were eventually aborted.
Even though Quadriga never listed, it started selling its shares over-the-counter. In Sep 2015, Quadriga stopped publishing audits. In March 2016, Quadriga was banned from selling shares after the BCSC issued a cease trade order (CTO) for not submitting an audit.
Around the same time, 3 of Quadriga’s 5 directors (Anthony Milewski, Lovie Horner, Bill Filtness) and CFO (Natasha Tsai) all resigned. Sometime in 2016, Director and Co-founder Michael Patryn resigned. This left Gerald Cotten ("Gerry") as the only remaining director.
Evidence shows that Michael Patryn has used several aliases (including Omar Dhanani) and is a convicted identity thief
Quadriga has changed its business address several times. It started as a Vancouver-based exchange, with its addresses changing from Commercial Dr, Nelson St, and Homer St. Eventually, the address moved to Toronto. None of these were physical office addresses, but instead a mail forwarding address.
The Terms of Service on Quadriga’s website have always suspiciously stated that:
All account fundings are considered to be purchases of QuadrigaCX Bucks. These are units that are used for the purposes of purchasing Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. QuadrigaCX Bucks are NOT Canadian Dollars. Any notation of $, CAD, or USD refers to an equivalent unit in QuadrigaCX Bucks, which exist for the sole purpose of buying and selling Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. QuadrigaCX is NOT a financial institution, bank, credit union, trust, or deposit business. We DO NOT take Deposits. We exist solely for the purposes of buying and selling cryptocurrencies.
Banking troubles throughout 2018
In late Dec 2017, Jose Reyes (CEO of Billerfy and Costodian Inc, Quadriga’s payment processor) moved over a million dollars from Quadriga’s account and into his own personal CIBC account
Shortly after, CIBC froze these funds and tried reaching out to Gerry, who refused to speak with them
All throughout 2018, Quadriga’s fiat withdrawal times took 2-3 months to complete. Quadriga kept citing the CIBC freeze as the reason. What’s very suspicious is how Quadriga constantly lied to customers with promises such as “the withdrawal backlog will be cleared in 1 week” or “your funds have been processed” when in fact they were months away from doing so.
Period leading up to Gerry’s death
On Nov 27, Gerry filed his will just 12 days before his death. He left a plane, two houses, and $100,000 for the care of his two Chihuahuas.
Gerry had a plan for all his personal affairs in the event of his death but he had no contingency plan for $180M CAD of crypto in cold storage that only he had the private keys to?
India is a suspicious place to travel, considering Gerry had a medical condition and considering how easy it is to get a death certificate there
After a severe bear market, most crypto businesses have been struggling and laying off staff. It’s odd that Gerry, who has no history of philanthropy, chooses to donate money. Especially when his exchange is having so many banking troubles.
The organization that built the orphanage states on their website that they take care of all construction. There was zero need for Gerry to go to India
A reddit post shows that the orphanage exists, although it’s a mystery where the image came from
Bitcoin fell 50% in Nov – the worst monthly decline in 7 years. Gerry’s death occurred shortly after
Gerry’s death and announcement
On Dec 9, Gerry died in India “due to complications of Crohn’s disease.” However, there is a low probability that Crohn’s disease is fatal, especially at the young age of 30
Just a couple days later, a reddit post indicated someone bought 300 BTC on Quadriga at a 25% premium and moved the funds out of the exchange
It took Quadriga over a month to announce Gerry’s death on Jan 14th.
Over the following 2 weeks, Quadriga continued to assure customers that “our hot wallets are being filled and withdrawals are going slower but will complete.”
On Jan 28th, Quadriga takes down their website. Initially they said “an upgrade is being performed,” then the message changed to “site maintenance” before being changed to “Quadriga has filed for creditor protection” on Jan 31st.
In the media, Gerry stated several times that Quadriga uses multi-sig cold storage. This is where 2/3 or 3/5 people can be used to authorize a transaction. Clearly no multisig was used if only Gerry had the private keys.
Formal Active Investigations
A preliminary court hearing was held on Feb 5, 2019 where the Canadian Apex Court appointed Ernst and Young (EY) as Monitor to further investigate into the matter. EY has stated that its an extraordinary challenge to decipher Quadriga's finances, as the company has no accounting records (and did not systematically track incoming and outgoing payments) nor a bank account in its name.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB), which gives Quadriga an F-rating, launched an investigation in Dec 2018
Quadriga has substantial personal information on its customers, including SIN, driver's license, and banking details. Given Quadriga's murky history, customers may have their identity at risk and should setup up credit report and identity theft alerts with either Equifax or TransUnion.
Playing with fire with FinCen and SEC, Binance may face a hefty penalty again after already losing 50 percent of its trading business
On May 6th, 2017, Bitcoin hit an all-time high in transactions processed on the network in a single day: it moved 375,000 transactions which accounted for a nominal output of about $2.5b. Average fees on the Bitcoin network had climbed over a dollar for the first time a couple days prior. And they kept climbing: by early June average fees hit an eye-watering $5.66. This was quite unprecedented. In the three-year period from Jan. 1 2014 to Jan. 1 2017, per-transaction fees had never exceeded 31 cents on a weekly average. And the hits kept coming. Before 2017 was over, average fees would top out at $48 on a weekly basis. When the crypto-recession set in, transaction count collapsed and fees crept back below $1. During the most feverish days of the Bitcoin run-up, when normal users found themselves with balances that would cost more to send than they were worth, cries for batching — the aggregation of many outputs into a single transaction — grew louder than ever. David Harding had written a blog post on the cost-savings of batching at the end of August and it was reposted to the Bitcoin subreddit on a daily basis. The idea was simple: for entities sending many transactions at once, clustering outputs into a single transaction was more space- (and cost-) efficient, because each transaction has a fixed data overhead. David found that if you combined 10 payments into one transaction, rather than sending them individually, you could save 75% of the block space. Essentially, batching is one way to pack as many transactions as possible into the finite block space available on Bitcoin. When fees started climbing in mid-2017, users began to scrutinize the behavior of heavy users of the Bitcoin blockchain, to determine whether they were using block space efficiently. By and large, they were not — and an informal lobbying campaign began, in which these major users — principally exchanges — were asked to start batching transactions and be good stewards of the scarce block space at their disposal. Some exchanges had been batching for years, others relented and implemented it. The question faded from view after Bitcoin’s price collapsed in Q1 2018 from roughly $19,000 to $6000, and transaction load — and hence average fee — dropped off. But we remained curious. A common refrain, during the collapse in on-chain usage, was that transaction count was an obfuscated method of apprehending actual usage. The idea was that transactions could encode an arbitrarily large (within reason) number of payments, and so if batching had become more and more prevalent, those payments were still occurring, just under a regime of fewer transactions. “hmmm” Some sites popped up to report outputs and payments per day rather than transactions, seemingly bristling at the coverage of declining transaction count. However, no one conducted an analysis of the changing relationship between transaction count and outputs or payments. We took it upon ourselves to find out. Table Of Contents: Introduction to batching A timeline Analysis Conclusion Bonus content: UTXO consolidation
Introduction to batching
Bitcoin uses a UTXO model, which stands for Unspent Transaction Output. In comparison, Ripple and Ethereum use an account/balance model. In bitcoin, a user has no balances, only UTXOs that they control. If they want to transfer money to someone else, their wallet selects one or more UTXOs as inputs that in sum need to add up to the amount they want to transfer. The desired amount then goes to the recipient, which is called the output, and the difference goes back to the sender, which is called change output. Each output can carry a virtually unlimited amount of value in the form of satoshis. A satoshi is a unit representing a one-hundred-millionth of a Bitcoin. This is very similar to a physical wallet full of different denominations of bills. If you’re buying a snack for $2.50 and only have a $5, you don’t hand the cashier half of your 5 dollar bill — you give him the 5 and receive some change instead. Unknown to some, there is no hardcoded limit to the number of transactions that can fit in a block. Instead, each transaction has a certain size in megabytes and constitutes an economic incentive for miners to include it in their block. Because miners have limited space of 2 MB to sell to transactors, larger transactions (in size, not bitcoin!) will need to pay higher fees to be included. Additionally, each transaction can have a virtually unlimited number of inputs or outputs — the record stands at transactions with 20,000 inputs and 13,107 outputs. So each transaction has at least one input and at one output, but often more, as well as some additional boilerplate stuff. Most of that space is taken up by the input (often 60% or more, because of the signature that proves they really belong to the sender), while the output(s) account for 15–30%. In order to keep transactions as small as possible and save fees, Bitcoin users have two major choices: Use as few inputs as possible. In order to minimize inputs, you can periodically send your smaller UTXOs to yourself in times when fees are very low, getting one large UTXO back. That is called UTXO consolidation or consolidating your inputs. Users who frequently make transfers (especially within the same block) can include an almost unlimited amount of outputs (to different people!) in the same transaction. That is called transaction batching. A typical single output transaction takes up 230 bytes, while a two output transaction only takes up 260 bytes, instead of 460 if you were to send them individually. This is something that many casual commentators overlook when comparing Bitcoin with other payment systems — a Bitcoin transaction can aggregate thousands of individual economic transfers! It’s important to recognize this, as it is the source of a great deal of misunderstanding and mistaken analysis. We’ve never encountered a common definition of a batched transaction — so for the purposes of this study we define it in the loosest possible sense: a transaction with three or more outputs. Commonly, batching is understood as an activity undertaken primarily by mining pools or exchanges who can trade off immediacy for efficiency. It is rare that a normal bitcoin user would have cause to batch, and indeed most wallets make it difficult to impossible to construct batched transactions. For everyday purposes, normal bitcoiners will likely not go to the additional effort of batching transactions. We set the threshold at three for simplicity’s sake — a normal unbatched transaction will have one transactional output and one change output — but the typical major batched transaction from an exchange will have dozens if not hundreds of outputs. For this reason we are careful to provide data on various different batch sizes, so we could determine the prevalence of three-output transactions and colossal, 100-output ones. We find it helpful to think of a Bitcoin transaction as a mail truck full of boxes. Each truck (transaction) contains boxes (outputs), each of contains some number of letters (satoshis). So when you’re looking at transaction count as a measure of the performance and economic throughput of the Bitcoin network, it’s a bit like counting mail trucks to discern how many letters are being sent on a given day, even though the number of letters can vary wildly. The truck analogy also makes it clear why many see Bitcoin as a settlement layer in the future — just as mail trucks aren’t dispatched until they’re full, some envision that the same will ultimately be the case for Bitcoin. Batching
So what actually happened in the last six months? Let’s look at some data. Daily transactions on the Bitcoin network rose steadily until about May 2017, when average fees hit about $4. This precipitated the first collapse in usage. Then began a series of feedback loops over the next six months in which transaction load grew, fees grew to match, and transactions dropped off. This cycle repeated itself five times over the latter half of 2017. more like this on coinmetrics.io The solid red line in the above chart is fees in BTC terms (not USD) and the shaded red area is daily transaction count. You can see the cycle of transaction load precipitating higher fees which in turn cause a reduction in usage. It repeats itself five or six times before the detente in spring 2018. The most notable period was the December-January fee crisis, but fees were actually fairly typical in BTC terms — the rising BTC price in USD however meant that USD fees hit extreme figures. In mid-November when fees hit double digits in USD terms, users began a concerted campaign to convince exchanges to be better stewards of block space. Both Segwit and batching were held up as meaningful approaches to maximize the compression of Bitcoin transactions into the finite block space available. Data on when exchanges began batching is sparse, but we collected information where it was available into a chart summarizing when exchanges began batching. Batching adoption at selected exchanges We’re ignoring Segwit adoption by exchanges in this analysis; as far as batching is concerned, the campaign to get exchanges to batch appears to have persuaded Bitfinex, Binance, and Shapeshift to batch. Coinbase/GDAX have stated their intention to begin batching, although they haven’t managed to integrate it yet. As far as we can tell, Gemini hasn’t mentioned batching, although we have some mixed evidence that they may have begun recently. If you know about the status of batching on Gemini or other major exchanges please get in touch. So some exchanges have been batching all along, and some have never bothered at all. Did the subset of exchanges who flipped the switch materially affect the prevalence of batched transactions? Let’s find out.
3.1 How common is batching? We measured the prevalence of batching in three different ways, by transaction count, by output value and by output count. The tl;dr. Batching accounts for roughly 12% of all transactions, 40% of all outputs, and 30–60% of all raw BTC output value. Not bad. 3.2 Have batched transactions become more common over time? From the chart in 3.1, we can already see a small, but steady uptrend in all three metrics, but we want to dig a little deeper. So we first looked at the relationship of payments (all outputs that actually pay someone, so total outputs minus change outputs) and transactions. More at transactionfee.info/charts The first thing that becomes obvious is that the popular narrative — that the drop in transactions was caused by an increase in batching — is not the case; payments dropped by roughly the same proportion as well. Dividing payment count by transaction count gives us some insight into the relationship between the two. In our analysis we want to zoom into the time frame between November 2017 and today, and we can see that payments per transactions have actually been rallying, from 1.5 payments per transaction in early 2017 to almost two today. 3.3 What are popular batch sizes? In this next part, we will look at batch sizes to see which are most popular. To determine which transactions were batched, we downloaded a dataset of all transactions on the Bitcoin network between November 2017 and May 2018from Blockchair. We picked that period because the fee crisis really got started in mid-November, and with it, the demands for exchanges to batch. So we wanted to capture the effect of exchanges starting to batch. Naturally a bigger sample would have been more instructive, but we were constrained in our resources, so we began with the six month sample. We grouped transactions into “batched” and “unbatched” groups with batched transactions being those with three or more outputs. We then divided batched transactions into roughly equal groups on the basis of how much total output in BTC they had accounted for in the six-month period. We didn’t select the batch sizes manually — we picked batch sizes that would split the sample into equal parts on the basis of transaction value. Here’s what we ended up with: All of the batch buckets have just about the same fraction of total BTC output over the period, but they account for radically different transaction and output counts over the period. Notice that there were only 183,108 “extra large” batches (with 41 or more outputs) in the six-month period, but between them there were 23m outputs and 30m BTC worth of value transmitted. Note that output value in this context refers to the raw or unadjusted figure — it would have been prohibitively difficult for us to adjust output for change or mixers, so we’re using the “naive” estimate. Let’s look at how many transactions various batch sizes accounted for in the sample period: Batched transactions steadily increased relative to unbatched ones, although the biggest fraction is the small batch with between 3 and 5 outputs. The story for output counts is a bit more illuminating. Even though batched transactions are a relatively small fraction of overall transaction count, they contain a meaningful number of overall outputs. Let’s see how it breaks down: Lastly, let’s look at output value. Here we see that batched transactions represent a significant fraction of value transmitted on Bitcoin. As we can see, even though batched transactions make up an average of only 12% of all transactions, they move between 30%-60% of all Bitcoins, at peak times even 70%. We think this is quite remarkable. Keep in mind, however that the ‘total output’ figure has not been altered to account for change outputs, mixers, or self-churn; that is, it is the raw and unadjusted figure. The total output value is therefore not an ideal approximation of economic volume on the Bitcoin network. 3.4 Has transaction count become an unreliable measure of Bitcoin’s usage because of batching? Yes. We strongly encourage any analysts, investors, journalists, and developers to look past mere transaction count from now on. The default measure of Bitcoin’s performance should be “payments per day” rather than transaction count. This also makes Bitcoin more comparable with other UTXO chains. They generally have significantly variable payments-per-transaction ratios, so just using payments standardizes that. (Stay tuned: Coinmetrics will be rolling out tools to facilitate this very soon.) More generally, we think that the economic value transmitted on the network is its most fundamental characteristic. Both the naive and the adjusted figures deserve to be considered. Adjusting raw output value is still more art than science, and best practices are still being developed. Again, Coinmetrics is actively developing open-source tools to make these adjustments available.
We started by revisiting the past year in Bitcoin and showed that while the mempool was congested, the community started looking for ways to use the blockspace more efficiently. Attention quickly fell on batching, the practice of combining multiple outputs into a single transaction, for heavy users. We showed how batching works on a technical level and when different exchanges started implementing the technique. Today, around 12% of all transactions on the Bitcoin network are batched, and these account for about 40% of all outputs and between 30–60% of all transactional value. The fact such that a small set of transactions carries so much economic weight makes us hopeful that Bitcoin still has a lot of room to scale on the base layer, especially if usage trends continue. Lastly, it’s worth noting that the increase in batching on the Bitcoin network may not be entirely due to deliberate action by exchanges, but rather a function of its recessionary behavior in the last few months. Since batching is generally done by large industrial players like exchanges, mixers, payment processors, and mining pools, and unbatched transactions are generally made by normal individuals, the batched/unbatched ratio is also a strong proxy for how much average users are using Bitcoin. Since the collapse in price, it is quite possible that individual usage of Bitcoin decreased while “industrial” usage remained strong. This is speculation, but one explanation for what happened. Alternatively, the industrial players appear to be taking their role as stewards of the scarce block space more seriously. This is a significant boon to the network, and a nontrivial development in its history. If a culture of parsimony can be encouraged, Bitcoin will be able to compress more data into its block space and everyday users will continue to be able to run nodes for the foreseeable future. We view this as a very positive development. Members of the Bitcoin community that lobbied exchanges to add support for Segwit and batching should be proud of themselves.
Bonus content: UTXO consolidation
Remember that we said that a second way to systematically save transaction fees in the Bitcoin network was to consolidate your UTXOs when fees were low? Looking at the relationship between input count and output count allows us to spot such consolidation phases quite well. Typically, inputs and outputs move together. When the network is stressed, they decouple. If you look at the above chart carefully, you’ll notice that when transactions are elevated (and block space is at a premium), outputs outpace inputs — look at the gaps in May and December 2017. However, prolonged activity always results in fragmented UTXO sets and wallets full of dust, which need to be consolidated. For this, users often wait until pressure on the network has decreased and fees are lower. Thus, after transactions decrease, inputs become more common than outputs. You can see this clearly in February/March 2017. Here we’ve taken the ratio of inputs to outputs (which have been smoothed on a trailing 7 day basis). When the ratio is higher, there are more inputs than outputs on that day, and vice versa. You can clearly see the spam attack in summer 2015 in which thousands (possibly millions) of outputs were created and then consolidated. Once the ratio spikes upwards, that’s consolidation. The spike in February 2018 after the six weeks of high fees in December 2017 was the most pronounced sigh of relief in Bitcoin’s history; the largest ever departure from the in/out ratio norm. There were a huge number of UTXOs to be consolidated. It’s also interesting to note where inputs and outputs cluster. Here we have histograms of transactions with large numbers of inputs or outputs. Unsurprisingly, round numbers are common which shows that exchanges don’t publish a transaction every, say, two minutes, but instead wait for 100 or 200 outputs to queue up and then publish their transaction. Curiously, 200-input transactions were more popular than 100-input transactions in the period. We ran into more curiosities when researching this piece, but we’ll leave those for another time. Future work on batching might focus on: Determining batched transactions as a portion of (adjusted) economic rather than raw volume Looking at the behavior of specific exchanges with regards to batching Investigating how much space and fees could be saved if major exchanges were batching transactions Lastly, we encourage everyone to run their transactions through the service at transactionfee.info to assess the efficiency of their transactions and determine whether exchanges are being good stewards of the block space. Update 31.05.2018 Antoine Le Calvez has created a series of live-updated charts to track batching and batch sizes, which you can find here. We’d like to thank 0xB10C for their generous assistance with datasets and advice, the people at Blockchair for providing the core datasets, and David A. Harding for writing the initial piece and answering our questions.
Hello! My name is Vladimir Hovanskiy. I am a Google Adwords manager at Platinum, a business facilitator of new generation, providing STO and ICO marketing services. We already created best STO blockchain platform on the market and consulted more than 700 projects. Here’s the proof 😎 Platinum.fund We are more than proud that we not only promote but also share our knowledge with the students of the UBAI. Here you can learn how to do security token offering and initial coin offering! Now I want to share some cool info on the purpose and role of tokens within the Blockchain ecosystem at the ICO stage. Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) History Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are a means of fundraising for the initial capital needed to get new projects off the ground within the cryptocurrency ecosystem. More often than not, Bitcoin and Ethereum, are used to buy a quantity of project tokens. However, new projects are also being launched on alternative Blockchain platforms such as NEO or WANchain, wherein the “parent” chain’s tokens will be used to fund these ICOs. Pre-launch, ICO tokens are endorsed as functional currency in the project ecosystem. After a project’s ICO, it is available on exchanges, and then the market determines the value of those tokens. The main benefit of using the ICO funding system is that it avoids the prohibitive amount of time and expense incurred by launching a startup in the conventional method, by way of Initial Public Offering (IPO). The lengthy and costly process of ensuring regulatory compliance in different jurisdictions often makes the IPO format unfeasible for small companies. Thus, the ICO method of fundraising is far more attractive as a means of crowd funding for the project. But at the same time, an ICO is certainly riskier for the investor. It is important to note the different stages of the token sale. Token prices generally escalate the closer the token gets to its listing date. Projects often seek funding from angel investors even before the date of the private pre-sale is set, though some ICOs do go straight to pre-sale. After potential initial investment has been sought from angel investors, pre-sale begins. Usually there will be a 15–30% discount from the public sale price. The main-sale begins after the pre-sale has concluded. At that time, normal everyday crypto enthusiasts, with no connections to the team, may buy into the project at pretty close to the ground floor price. Angel investors and pre-sale investors sometimes receive quite large discounts from main sale prices, but their tokens are locked up for varying amounts of time, to prevent dumping, or selling all their tokens for a quick profit at the time of listing. Today the vast majority of ICOs make use of the Ethereum blockchain and the ERC-20 token. The very first token sale was arranged by Mastercoin, a Bitcoin fork, in July 2013. Ethereum soon followed in early 2014, raising 3700 BTC in only 12 hours (equivalent to $2.3 million at that time, and just under $35 million today). Before late 2015 there were sporadic ICOs, with Augur, NXT and Factom all successfully raising funds. 2016 was the year that the ICO format grew to truly disrupt the Venture Capital industry. There were 64 ICOs in 2016 which cumulatively raised $103 million USD. Tremendous Success & Why Real World Case Study The ICON (ICX) Initial coin offering is an example of a project that reaped the rewards of a token sale done with precision of execution and clarity of vision. The project promised to build a world-wide decentralized network that would allow Blockchains of different governances to transact with one another without a centralized authority, and with as few barriers as possible. ICX offered fair and clear tokenomics, with 1 Ether buying 2500 ICX, and with 1 ETH costing approximately 250 dollars when the ICO began on September 18th. 50% of the total amount of tokens were put up for public sale, 400,230,000 out of a total of 800,460,000, equating to a fundraising goal of 150,000 Ether. One of the core reasons for the project’s spectacular success was the incredibly distinguished background of those involved, and the foundation the project had in many years of stellar achievement. ICON was originally a project developed by “The Loop”, a joint venture between DAYLI financial group and three Korean Universities. They lead the Korea Financial Investment Blockchain Consortium, one of the largest organizations of its kind in the world, boasting members including Samsung Securities. The Loop had already implemented Blockchain solutions for high profile clients well before ICX was born, including completing a KYC/AML authentication smart contract platform for Korea Financial Investment Consortium. Real World Example of Failure & Why Case Study The risk involved in starting your own company is huge. Over 75% of startups eventually fail, according to the Harvard Business School study by Shikhar Ghosh. The study’s findings show the rate of failure for new companies is roughly 50% after 5 years, and over 75% after 10. Shikhar Ghosh identifies the following issues as the most common factors in start-up failure: -Insufficient Market Demand -Insolvency -Wrong Team -Got beat by competition -Pricing/Cost issues -Poor Product -Need for or Lack of business model -Ineffective Marketing -Disregarding Customer desires The statistics concerning rate of failure for conventional business startups pale in comparison to the number of crypto startups that fail according to Tokendata. They are one of the most rigorous ICO trackers, recording 46% of the 902 ICO crowdsale projects initiated in 2017 as failing by the time of writing. Of these 46%, 142 collapsed before the end of the funding stage, and a further 276 had either “exit scammed” (took the money and ran) or slowly faded into eventual obscurity. With no shortage of failed and abortive projects to look into, we thought it would be more helpful to look into an ICO that was mismanaged and unsuccessful in terms of its execution, rather than being fraudulent, or terminally mismanaged. Real World Example of Failure & Why §3 Tezos was designed as a “new decentralized Blockchain that governs itself by establishing a true digital commonwealth”. The project was a partnership between the husband and wife team of Kathleen and Arthur Breitman, and a Swiss foundation run by Johann Gevers. They had a novel idea of “formal verification”, a technique that mathematically proves the veracity of code governing transactions and heightens security of smart contracts. That idea was wholeheartedly endorsed by investors, resulting in $232 million USD raised in the 2017 crowdsale. Trouble arose after the Breitmans asked the head of the Swiss foundation they were in partnership with to step down. In Gever’s words, the Breitman’s were attempting “to bypass Swiss legal structure and take over control of the foundation”. The resulting 6 class action lawsuits that were spawned from the wreckage of one of the most successful ICOs of all time have yet to be fully resolved at the time of writing, though Gevers has stepped down and a new leadership team is in place. The Tezos Network has a prospective launch date of somewhere around Q3 2018. The debacle, though not terminal to the prospects of the Tezos network, provides a cautionary tale about the need for a clearly defined leadership structure and plan for the allocation of funds after an ICO. It is entirely possible that the Tezos project could have ridden the late 2017 market euphoria to sit near the top of the cryptocurrency hierarchy if boardroom strife could have been avoided. Real World Example of Failure & Why §4 Projects often also “pivot” from one focus or project to another. More often than not, teams change the project name entirely, even while retaining the same core team, to try for a successful venture one more time. One such project is Chain Trade Token (CTT) which, while technically speaking, not yet a “deadcoin”, shows all the signs of shutting down operations within a few months, and “pivoting” into a new project. The CTT project aimed to be the “first blockchain-based platform for the trading of futures and options on food and raw materials (aka commodity derivatives)”. But through a combination of a non-existent social media presence, and a distinct lack of urgency in securing listings beyond decentralized exchanges, the lofty ambitions of the top-level team were left unrealized. The team has supposedly split their operations from solely Chain Trade, to a former business endeavors, and the Nebula Decentralized Exchange. The project leaders then offered a 1-for-1 token swap which has been accepted by the vast majority of CTT holders. The ICO Process Before even researching the particular strengths and weaknesses of any specific project in which you may want to invest, it is important to know the overall processes of the ICO crowdfunding method. This will allow you to avoid any potential pitfalls if you do decide to move forward and invest money into a particular idea or project. How does an ICO happen? Stage One: Token sale details are set: This takes place usually after release of the whitepaper, and the presentation of a project to prospective investors in forums and on social media. Stage Two: Whitelisting for private sale begins: The vast majority of all ICOs have instituted KYC checks for investors which usually involve uploading a photograph of your passport or driving license along with a selfie holding the ID. Did you know? Participation in ICOs has proven to be a regulatory nightmare in some localities. Most token sales restrict contributions from investors in China and the USA entirely, though accredited investors may participate in the USA in some cases. Stage Three: Private/Pre-sale states: Typically, 10% of tokens will be offered to early investors at a 10–30% discount. These select few investors will likely have a close association with the team. But not all projects have a pre-sale round, some go straight to public sale. Stage Four: Whitelisting for Public/Main sale starts: The same format used for pre-sale investors is used for public sale investors, though it is a regular occurrence to see main sale KYC checks closed early due to overwhelming demand. An investor must then register a contribution wallet address. That is the address used to send cryptocurrency from, to buy the ICO tokens, and then also into which you will receive your purchased tokens. This wallet address must be a non-exchange wallet, like Blockchain.info bitcoin wallet, or MyEtherWallet for ERC-20. You already understand from the prior lesson that making a mistake with your wallet address may mean you lose the tokens forever as well as the BTC or ETH you used to purchase them. Copying and pasting your cryptocurrency public key into the whitelist wallet form is the next task to complete. And then, as the investor, you wait for confirmation of successful ICO registration from the team. Stage Five: Public sale starts: Commonly on a specific date, though sometimes for a specific period of time. If you are interested in participating in an ICO, it is important to make your contribution as quickly as possible, or you risk sending your ETH or BTC after the hard cap has been reached, resulting in your funds being sent back. This refund can sometimes take many days, or even weeks in times of high market activity. Did you know? In 2017 it was not unheard of to find ICOs that had originally scheduled their ICO period for many weeks, but then they met with such high demand that they could close their crowdsale in a matter of hours or even in just a few minutes! Stage Six: Tokens are allocated to successful participant investor wallets, and trading can begin on some decentralized exchanges like IDEX, or EtherDelta in the case of Ethereum based tokens. Tokens will be sent to and received by the wallet addresses from which the investor contributions were made. Stage Seven: Tokens are listed on mainstream exchanges: The tokens will then be listed on the exchanges with which the teams have negotiated listing, prior to or during the sale. It can cost huge amounts of money to list on large exchanges like Bitfinex Bittrex, Huobi or Binance, so usually smaller projects will not be listed on top 10 exchanges so quickly. As tokens are listed on more and more exchanges, their price usually rises because more and more investors are exposed to opportunities to buy that particular token. Evaluating a Blockchain Use Case Evaluating a particular use case for Blockchain technology, and thus how successful an ICO project’s ambitions might be in a particular market, is not a simple endeavor. As demonstrated in the graphic below, Blockchain technology has nearly limitless potential to be applied to a great variety of business areas, but as an ICO investor, you are looking for projects that have the potential to deliver significant long-term success. In the currently saturated ICO environment, some use cases have more potential than others. Ascertaining which use case is likely to have long term success is a key distinction. Also, we must recognize that businesses and corporate entities may be overeager to experiment with this new Blockchain technology, whether or not usage of the technology is actually advisable or profitable for their particular purpose. The main questions to ask when analyzing specific solutions proposed by the project are: What are the problems posed and the solutions offered? Does this particular area of business need a Blockchain solution? That is, is a Blockchain solution in fact superior to the current way this particular business operates? Is the use of Blockchain in this specific instance feasible and applicable? What are competitors doing about Blockchain projects in this same area? A Blockchain network provides a shared, replicated, secured, immutable and verifiable data ledger. The implication for use case analysis: Shared and replicated: participants have a copy of the ledger and many people can view it or work on it Secured: Secured through cryptography Verifiable: Business rules are associated with all interactions that occur on the network Immutable: Transactions (records) cannot be modified or deleted, therefore a verifiable audit trail is maintained by the network So, with all this considered, what should we look for with regard to a possible business use case that would be best solved using Blockchain technology? 1. Data exchange that has trust issues i.e. businesses transacting with one another. Trust must be established through a multitude of verification processes with regards to employees and products. These processes increase operational cost. Example: Digital voting. 2. Any potential business process involving data storage, or compliance and risk data that get audited. Blockchain solutions would provide the regulators a real-time view of information. Example: Supply chain solutions like VeChain or WaltonChain. The possibility of close to zero operational loss would of course be attractive to any business. 3. All kinds of asset transactions. A Blockchain network, with its tamper-proof ledger, validating traceable and trackable transactions, could save many different industries untold amounts of money. Example: Tokenization of assets e.g. Jibrel Network or Polymath Purpose of Tokens Within the cryptocurrency ecosystem, the definition and role of a token iswidely understood. They represent programmable units of currency that sit atop a particular Blockchain, and they are part of a smart contract “logic” specific to a certain application. In the business sphere, a token can be defined as a unit of value that a project or business venture creates to enable it to self-govern. And the business venture also allows token users to connect and collaborate with its business products, while facilitating the sharing of rewards to all of its stakeholders. A token can also be described in a more general sense as a type of privately issued currency. In the past it was solely within the purview of governments to issue currency and set the terms of its governance. With the advent of Blockchain technology we now have businesses and organizations offering forms of digital money over which they, not the government or central bank, have control of the terms of operations and issuance. Wide scale adoption of these mechanisms could fundamentally alter the global economy. This is like the creation of self-sustaining, mini-economies in any sector of business or life, via a specific token or currency. Fun Fact: Tokens of the particular Blockchain upon which the project is launched will usually have to be bought in order to be exchanged for ICO tokens, hence it is important for traders and investors to be aware of the schedule for upcoming ICOs. ETH is usually the token used for exchange because the majority of ICOs launch on the Ethereum Blockchain. But this is not always the case. During January 2018, two NEO token ICOs, both the Key TKY and Ontology ICOs, were being carried out, and this caused the NEO cryptocurrency to spike to its all-time high in excess of $160 USD. Since the product or project is more often than not in its embryonic stage at the time of the ICO crowdfunding process, the ICO token’s true function and purpose is in most cases yet to be realized. At the ICO stage the tokens can usually be grouped together into one of three categories. Knowing how to distinguish these categories involves determining the specific nature and function of the token around which the project is centered. The main and crucial distinction, is whether or not a token is a security, and therefore subject to securities registration requirements. ICO Stage Token Categories Howey Test: This is the test created by the US Supreme Court to ascertain whether certain transactions qualify as “investment contracts”. If they are found to fall within this classification, then under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Exchange Act of 1934, those transactions are considered “securities” and participants must adhere to registration and disclosure requirements. One of the most important and amazing considerations of the effect of Blockchain technology is that normal people with a computer science background are now empowered to make decisions and offer products and services that previously only licensed financial institutions were able to do. This is a very complex and complicated situation with serious ramifications for anyone involved. One thing to note well is that ordinary participants and actors in this arena can easily commit white-collar crime, violating serious securities laws, without even realizing it. If a token falls within the US legal definition of “Investment Contract” then you must adhere to US regulations. For that reason, many ICOs simply do not want to sell to US based investors, perhaps until all the rules and regulations are clarified. Security Tokens The broad and varying definition of the term “security” is a regulatory minefield. This has always been true for traditional financial products, and now it is especially true for the as yet unregulated cryptocurrency market. In the case of SEC V. Howey, parameters were established to determine whether or not a particular financial arrangement could be classified as a security and thus be subject to securities regulations. Cooley LLP Fintech Team Leader Marco Santori has said, an arrangement is a security if it involves “an investment of money, and a common enterprise, with the expectation of profit, primarily from the efforts of others.” Investors have the option of accessing a huge range of security tokens through ICOs. Prime examples are the gold backed DigixDao (DGD) and CProp (still in crowd funding stage). A security token is fundamentally different from the currently available ICO project tokens in that it provides a legal and enforceable ownership of a company’s profits and voice in its governance much like common stock traded on any exchange. If security tokens are the next step in the evolution of crypto-finance, real estate, stocks, venture capital, and commodities can all be tokenized. The traditional markets could be fully connected to the Blockchain. Financial assets would available to anyone in the world, not just licensed or accredited investors. That is one aspect of Fintech, the financial revolution taking place today, as Blockchain technology clashes with traditional finance. Equity Tokens One exciting application of smart contracts on the Ethereum Network is the potential for startups to distribute equity tokens through initial coin offerings. That would reduce the hurdles that an average person has to face in order to take part in the early stages of a company’s development. And, democratic governance of a project could be conducted in a transparent manner through voting on the Blockchain. As of yet, few startups have attempted to conduct equity token sales for fear of falling afoul of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US. But many Venture Capital insiders are bullish on the prospect of equity tokens taking a central role in the crypto finance industry, when and as the legal issues are resolved. For example, the Delaware State legislature recently passed a bill enabling companies to maintain shareholder lists on the Blockchain. That is one major step to enable Blockchain based stock trading. Lawyers also generally believe it is only a matter of time before the regulations are clarified. Did you know? Important consideration: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 made it unfeasibly expensive for smaller companies to be listed on exchanges, causing a halving in the number of IPOs between 1996 and 2016 (7322 to 3671). In 2017 there was an almost 5-fold increase in the number of ICOs, from 43 to 210, with the 2017 volume already being eclipsed in the first 5 months of 2018. Utility Tokens However, given that this area is still a regulatory nightmare for people planning to issue security and equity tokens, many projects attempt to ensure that the tokens within their specific model fall under the definition of Utility Tokens rather than securities, so as to avoid the SEC regulations altogether. If a token is imbued with a certain functionality and use within the Blockchain infrastructure of that particular project, the token can avoid being labelled as a security, and thus render SEC regulations inapplicable. Just this week in fact, the SEC made the long-awaited and momentous decision that Ether was not a security. In the words of William Hinman, director of the Securities and Exchange Commission division of corporate finance, “Putting aside the fundraising that accompanied the creation of Ether, based on my understanding of the present state of Ether, the Ethereum network and its decentralized structure, current offers and sales of Ether are not securities transactions.” This means that Ethereum, in fact, fails the Howey test, which is exactly the decision the crypto world wanted. Hinman said, “When the efforts of the third party are no longer a key factor for determining the enterprise’s success, material information asymmetries recede,” Hinman said. “The ability to identify an issuer or promoter to make the requisite disclosures becomes difficult, and less meaningful.” We will now cover various use cases that projects have been adopting up to now in order to get their tokens classified as utility tokens rather than securities. Voting Rights Some coins portray themselves as a company with tokens being held in a way that is analogous to voting shares of a stock. One coin held is equal to one vote. This form of token utility has a major flaw in that so-called whales (people with huge amounts of a particular cryptocurrency) can manipulate any poll conducted. The cryptocurrencies Aragon and Lykke are examples of projects that have written voting rights into the structure of their code. In-App Reward: Another common tactic to evade the security label has been the addition of in-app rewards to the functionality of a particular token. The Basic Attention Token (BAT) is the unit of currency for use with the project browser named “Brave”. The BAT is a unit of account for the advertisers, publishers and users of the platform. Filecoin, the cloud storage project that raised a record $257 million through their ICO, pays other people or companies for use of their spare storage space. Some of the many rights afforded to token holders in various Blockchain projects are described by the graphic below. Token Roles Function The token can be used as a mechanism through which user experience is enhanced, enabling such actions as connection with users, or joining a broader network. It may also be used as an incentive for beginning usage or for on-boarding. Examples include Dfinity and Steemit. Value Exchange: In its most basic usage, a token is a unit of value exchange within a specific app or market. This usually is made up of features that allow users to earn tokens through real work or passive work (sharing data, allowing use of storage space) and to spend them on services or internal functions within the specific market ecosystem created by that organization. Augur and KIK, amongst countless others, are projects that have implemented this functionality into their tokenomics. Toll: The token can also be used for getting onto the Blockchain infrastructure, or for powering decentralized applications run on that particular Blockchain. This ensures that users have “skin in the game”. Tolls can be derived from running smart contracts, paying a security deposit, or just usage fees. Examples include Bitcoin and Ethereum. Currency: Seeing as the particular platform or app is designed with a view towards functioning in synergy with a particular token, the token is an extremely efficient means of payment and transaction engine, resulting in frictionless transactions. This means that companies can become their own payment processors and no longer have to rely on the often unwieldy stages of conventional financial settlement involving trusted third parties in the form of banks and credit card companies. Rights: Owning a token bequests certain rights upon the holder, such as product usage, voting, access to restricted markets, and dividends (e.g.: GAS for holding NEO). Though most businesses are trying to avoid fitting the definition of a security laid out in the Howey Test, the right to real ownership of a particular asset is sometimes granted as a result of holding a token, for example DigixDAO or Tezos. Comparison to Traditional IPO and Equity Capital Raisings Despite the similarity of the acronyms and the derivation of one from the other, Initial Coin Offerings and Initial Public Offerings are very different methods of fundraising. The distinction is not limited simply to the fact that IPOs are used in conventional business, and ICOs are associated with cryptocurrency. Through ICO’s, companies in their early stages issue digital tokens on a Blockchain and those tokens act as units of value for use within the ecosystem created by the project. They have many other uses, but it is also fair to say they are analogous to shares offered in an Initial Public offering. In an IPO, shareholdings are distributed to investors through underwriters, usually investment banks. But in the case of ICO token sales, companies often do not even have an actual product to show. Often, all that there is a whitepaper, evidence of the partnerships involved and the particular social-media infrastructure they have established. IPO’s take place when a more well-established company floats shares on a stock exchange. The company would have a well-established history of success and significant reasons to expect a bright future. In the vast majority of cases, an ICO is used for a new company with no such history, just trying to get off the ground. Another important difference is the expected return in exchange for the investment. Companies engaging in IPOs may offer participants dividend paying stocks which result in various levels of return depending on the success of the company after the shares are issued. An ICO however can offer no such guaranteed return. When buying tokens in an ICO, you do so with no promise of return. An investor who holds the tokens of a particular project does so with the promise, rather than an assurance, of future success. The main benefit to investors taking part in Initial Coin Offerings, compared to Initial Public Offerings, is the need for only basic Know Your Customer checks in the case of the ICO, compared to the costly, complex and time-consuming regulatory obstacles that must be traversed in an IPO. In the case of Initial Public Offerings, a business must obtain authorization from a number of entities before the act of “going public”. Prior to an IPO, companies are not obliged to disclose so much of their internal records or accounting. It is not so complicated to make a private company in the United States. But in the run up to going public, the company must form a board of directors, make their records auditable to the relevant authorities in one or more jurisdictions, and prepare to make quarterly reports to the SEC (or equivalent). Relevant Factors to Consider in ICO process When analyzing the chances of success for a specific project, and the likelihood of a favorable return on investment in the long term, it is essential to break down the project into its constituent parts, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each part individually. An effective investigation and analysis would start with the team and white paper. Consider the stage the project is at,and VC investments in the project. That would lead to a good initial idea of the actual progress thus far. Next, evaluate the social media presence and the credentials of the community that has formed around the core team. If a compelling case is made by the team, (e.g.: via an in-depth dive into the use case), and the tokenomics, distribution schedule, potential competitors, as well as the team’s awareness of any future business or regulatory concerns all check out; then the ICO might present a good opportunity for investment. In the following slides we tackle each of these considerations in order so you will be able to evaluate an ICO’s worth and assign a grade for the success of each project. Relevant Factors to Consider in ICO process The Team First and most important, we need evaluate the background and experience of the team, the people involved in the project. Well-established developers, for example, will likely have LinkedIn profiles demonstrating their previous endeavors and occupations, from which we can judge their suitability to the project and the likelihood of the team’s success. The LinkedIn profile is a point of reference for professional accomplishments and official positions. But we can also learn more about a person from their personal accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Medium etc. That is also a good way to follow along with the progress of the project. By investigating team members through as many means as possible, you will know how long they have been involved in cryptocurrency. If they have been around and active for a long time, they are that much more likely to be knowledgeable and capable of making better quality decisions in this business. It goes without saying that it is a huge red flag if it is too difficult to find information about the team members online, and worse still if the team members are anonymous. Relevant Factors to Consider in ICO process A good Whitepaper gives a detailed description of the project, the problems the team is going to solve, the timeframe projected, and methods to be used in the implementation of their ideas. If, in answering the question about what the project actually does, it seems the team is presenting ideas that are too complicated or advanced to understand, then you simply should not invest until you are satisfied you have been given the requisite level of insight to understand the concepts described. It is always possible that the whitepaper is nothing more than a salad of buzzwords and technical language intended to give the impression of competence while really doing nothing but obfuscate the truth. The whitepaper should clearly and concisely present the problems and the solutions needed. The whitepaper must give a solid and coherent answer as to who needs this project and why. Also, if the team have put no effort into explaining why a Blockchain solution is needed for this particular problem, or why such a solution is superior to its “real-world” equivalent, it is likely they are only in it for the money. We have more to say about red-flags later. While 2016 raised a comparatively small amount in comparison to the proceeding years, there were a few specific projects that raised significant amounts of capital. These are respectable amounts of money, even by today’s standards, and especially impressive when contrasted with the immaturity of the ICO market at the time, and relative to amounts raised in traditional IPOs. Waves ($16.4mill), Iconomi ($10.6mill) and Golem ($8.6mill) were the three largest fundraisings of the year. 2017 was the year of the ICO whales. Hdac ($258mill), Filecoin ($257mill), EOS Stage 1 ($185mill) and Paragon ($183.16mill) were the largest that year. To be able to raise so much money, so quickly, in such a new market, using such a new mechanism is truly incredible. 2017 was the year that proved ICOs are for serious individuals and institutional investors as well. We have also had some phenomenal amounts raised so far in 2018. Telegram ($1.7bill), Dragon ($320mill), Huobi ($300mill) and Bankera ($150mill). Telegram might be the first mainstream example of an ICO, not only by raising close to $2billion, which would be beyond incredible and impressive even by traditional IPO standards; but also, because it is one of the first ICO companies to tangibly put a product in the hands of hundreds of millions of users, and successfully compete against traditional companies such as Facebook (MessengeWhatsApp), Microsoft (Skype) and Tencent (WeChat). What is ICO main mechanisms and processes.? How to market STO? What are the best security tokens 2019? Follow the link to learn more: UBAI.co We can teach you how to do ICO and STO in 2019. Contact me via Facebook to learn more: Facebook
InvestInBlockchain - Cryptocurrencies in the Top 100 With Working Products
📷 Bitcoin is the cryptocurrency that started it all back in 2009, after the global financial crisis and subsequent bailouts of banks left many people disenfranchised with fiat currency and outdated, insecure financial infrastructure. Today, Bitcoin is being used for peer-to-peer payments across the globe. More than that, though, it is leading the way towards a future in which financial technology is trustless, secure, resilient, and censorship resistant. Without Bitcoin, this list would not exist.
📷 The platform that brought smart contracts to the blockchain, spurring a minor revolution in the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Before Ethereum, Bitcoin and its transaction-oriented design was the central focus of most blockchain projects. After Ethereum, teams saw the value of decentralized apps (dapps) and smart contracts, and shifted their focus to compensate. Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum whitepaper was released in late 2013. The project itself was announced January 2014, with a crowdsale the following July. The system officially went live in July 2015. Since then, hundreds of businesses, individuals, and blockchain projects have adopted Ethereum as their main smart contracts platform.
📷 Ripple is focused primarily on one thing: fast and cheap international transactions. Current banking infrastructure has failed to evolve in the 21st century, such that it still takes 3-5 business days on average for an international transfer to be processed. With just 4 second transaction times and at a fraction of the cost of a wire transfer, Ripple’s working product is already impacting the banking sector. The big knock against Ripple is that its native token, XRP, is completely unnecessary. Indeed, driving adoption of Ripple’s banking solutions is far easier than getting real-world adoption for XRP. If you’re interested in seeing a discussion about how XRP adoption will occur, you might find this reddit thread worth a read. Meanwhile, all of us will just have to wait and see whether XRP adoption strategies ultimately come to fruition.
Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
📷 Bitcoin Cash was created in 2017 when the first ever hard fork of the Bitcoin blockchain took place. The split was the result of Bitcoin’s 1MB blocks filling up. Transaction speeds were declining, fees were increasing, and it became clear to the community that the current model wasn’t sustainable for scaling. In a move that still causes cryptocurrency fights to this day, Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash soon emerged as separate but similar projects. BCH has 8x the block size of BTC, giving it roughly 8x the transaction throughput. Its fees and transaction times are much faster, as predicted. Learn more about Bitcoin vs Bitcoin Cash.
📷 The Stellar project and its associated Lumens (XLM) token was forked from the Ripple protocol in 2014. Stellar has come into its own since then, providing a blockchain connection service for fiat transactions between banks, payment systems, and people. Stellar is fast and reliable, and it works with practically no fees for the end-user. Stellar is a payments system, meaning its job is to move money as efficiently as possible. Partnerships with banks and financial institutions were key in evaluating its status, as was the ability to actually send money using the network. Several non-profits and commercial entities have agreed to use Stellar as part of their financial infrastructure. Recently, the team partnered with IBM and KlickEx to facilitate cross-border transactions in the South Pacific and announced an affiliate with Keybase to streamline international transactions. Stellar also has projects being builton its network by major established entities. IBM’s blockchain division is using XLM for their payments infrastructure, for example, and the Veridium startup is working with both organizations to tokenize its carbon credits market.
📷 Litecoin is a Bitcoin fork that was created in 2011 by Charlie Lee as a cheaper and faster (2.5 minute block time instead of 10) alternative to Bitcoin. This is accomplished predominantly because Litecoin uses a Scrypt hashing algorithm instead of the SHA-256 algorithm used by Bitcoin. It’s common to hear Litecoin called “digital silver” to Bitcoin’s “digital gold,” and in reality Litecoin does not really expand upon the functionality of Bitcoin in a significant way so much as it makes different tradeoffs. That being said, it does succeed in being cheaper and faster to use than BTC, which has led to it being accepted by hundreds of merchants and thus making Litecoin one of the most widely used cryptocurrencies for digital payments.
📷 Tether is an unusual project. Whereas most cryptocurrencies rise and fall in value, Tether was designed to stay the same, fixed at a 1:1 ratio with the U.S. dollar. This allows users to store, send, and receive digital currencies across platforms without incurring significant losses due to value fluctuations. The Tether stable coin sounds straightforward, but the project isn’t without controversy. USDT is supposedly backed by real USD sitting in a bank account. But in which account? Who controls it? And is Tether being used to manipulate the value of Bitcoin? It’s all part of the Tether controversy.
📷 Released in 2014 as a fork of Bytecoin, Monero has since made a name for itself as the most popular privacy coin on the market. Most cryptocurrencies offer little in the form of anonymity. Monero was built for privacy from the ground-up, featuring stealth addresses, ring signatures, and complete coin fungibility. All of this adds up to a near-perfect cloak of anonymity, allowing Monero users to conduct transactions without exposing their identity. Monero has had steady growth over the years thanks to a dedicated team of developers and an active community. The project continues to evolve with new privacy features and improved transaction security.
📷 NEO was founded in 2014 as one of the earliest smart contract platforms, giving it a wide breadth of possible functionality. The platform’s strongest use case is digitizing traditional assets so that they can be easily tracked and exchanged on the blockchain. NEO is also well-known as the “Chinese Ethereum,” and the fact that it is a Chinese-based project does seem to make Chinese dapp developers somewhat more likely to build on top of it than other platforms. In fact, NEO has already supported dozens of ICOs and remains one of the predominant platforms for supporting smart contracts and dapps.
Binance Coin (BNB)
📷 Binance Coin is an exchange token used to reduce trading fees on the Binance platform. Users can opt to pay exchange, listing, and withdrawal fees using BNB and enjoy as much as a 50% discount on all charges. This turns out to be a powerful incentive for purchasing and holding BNB, as what trader doesn’t enjoy saving money on transactions? Binance Coin is an ERC-20 token that runs on the Ethereum blockchain. Its purpose is extremely limited, but because such a vast number of Binance users transact with it every day, it qualifies as a working and active product.
📷 Zcash is another immensely popular privacy coin that often cracks the top 20 cryptocurrencies. It uses the tagline “internet money” and promises to fully protect the privacy of transactions with zero-knowledge cryptography. Zcash provides anonymity by shielding transactions on the blockchain, preventing anyone from seeing the sender, recipient, or value of each transaction. The technology is so effective the Ethereum team is investigating it to enable anonymous transactions on their network. Zcash has grown in leaps and bounds in 2018. The dev team published a roadmap through the year 2020, which includes a major features upgrade in the October 2018 Sapling release. Coinbase is also considering listing Zcash, which is a huge boost for any cryptocurrency.
📷 Qtum is a smart contracts platform similar to Ethereum, only with a stronger focus on value transfers and decentralized apps. It’s meant to be something of a hybrid between Bitcoin and Ethereum, allowing businesses to build smart contracts on the platform or just focus on cryptocurrency transactions. Qtum launched in March 2017, and dashed straight to the top. The initial offering sold over $10 million in tokens after just 90 minutes. The project differentiated itself by providing a rare Proof-of-Stake smart contracts platform designed to compensate for some of Ethereum’s shortcomings, including lack of compatibility for mobile devices. Qtum released its mainnet in September 2017, opening the doors to a fully functional smart contract and dapps platform. Several projects already have an established presenceon the network. One of the more exciting ones is Space Chain, which aims to create an open-source satellite network anyone can use for data transmission, storage, and development.
0x Protocol (ZRX)
📷 0x Protocol has one of the most important working products in the entire Ethereum ecosystem. It is a permissionless, open-source protocol that facilitates trustless exchanges of Ethereum tokens through relayers and dapps that build on top of the protocol. Not only has 0x been providing this functionality for over a year now, but they’ve been working to expand the protocol functionality significantly since that initial launch. In 0x protocol 2.0 and beyond, it will be possible to trade tokens built on standards besides ERC-20, including non-fungible ERC-721 tokens. In a market full of scams and vaporware, 0x’s valuable contributions to the Ethereum ecosystem have made it one of the best performing cryptocurrencies of 2018.
📷 Bytecoin is another popular privacy-focused cryptocurrency with a strong community and user base. Transactions on the Bytecoin blockchain are instantaneous, untraceable, unlinkabe, and resistant to blockchain analysis. Bytecoin has been around for a long time now, with contributions to the project beginning in 2012. However, that hasn’t stopped the project’s developers from continuously improving the product. The recently updated Bytecoin roadmap has a hard fork for a consensus update scheduled for August 31, as well as numerous initiatives for community growth constantly in the works.
📷 Founded in 2015 by former Bitcoin developers, Decred’s most important working product is its solution to Bitcoin’s biggest problem. No, not scalability… blockchain governance. You see, early Bitcoiners have been debating block size limitations and the efficacy of other scalability solutions like the Lightning Network for years, even though the problem of scalability really only became discussed in the mainstream in 2017. With its community-based governance model and strong adherence to the core ethos of decentralization, Decred is built to evolve and improve rapidly. That means that it’s equipped to handle not only the scalability problem today, but other big problems that might arise down the line. When you have poor governance, it is an arduous process making any upgrades to a project, no matter how necessary they may seem to the majority of coin holders. Decred’s best-in-class and still improving governance model give it an intriguing case to be a leader in digital payments for a long time to come.
📷 BitShares aims to improve worldwide access to financial services via blockchain. The tagline “assist the unbanked” summarizes the project nicely. In practice, this translates to BitShares operating as a decentralized exchange, one that was built from the ground-up to avoid scalability issues and keep transaction fees low. BitShares was launched in 2014 by Dan Larimer, who would then go on to take a lead development role in both EOS and Steem. The current state of the project offers decentralized asset exchange, price-stable cryptocurrencies, recurring and scheduled payments, user-issued assets, and more, all available through a decentralized system powered by delegated PoS consensus.
📷 Steem is the cryptocurrency that powers Steemit, a decentralized social media platform that incentivizes user participation through micropayments. Think of it like Reddit, only instead of just upvoting or downvoting posts, users can actually reward creators for their effort. Steem is a functional cryptocurrency used exclusively on the Steemit platform. That gives it something of a limited use, but seeing as how Steemit is live and boasts a few hundred thousand users, it’s hard to argue it isn’t a working product. Some people may even beearning money using Steemit.
📷 Siacoin is one of the leaders in decentralized cloud storage, a more secure and affordable alternative to centralized cloud storage solutions like Amazon S3, Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, and others. Sia 1.0 was launched in June 2016, and has achieved considerable adoption since then. With the $200 billion cloud storage market widely seen as one of the spaces most ripe for blockchain disruption, Sia has gotten off to a nice start by offering a functional decentralized cloud storage platform for over 2 years.
📷 Augur is one of the most recently launched products on this list. The platform mainnet went live in early July 2018, bringing to fruition almost 4 years of post-ICO work. Augur is a decentralized prediction market that uses game theory to generate crowd-sourced insights. Essentially, thousands of people working together have shown the remarkable ability to forecast outcomes. With Augur, users can put REP tokens as bets on these predictions, essentially creating a form of “useful social gambling.” Augur’s release was a long time coming. The project started as far back as 2014, nearly a year before the ICO. The creators cite the complexity of Augur’s smart contracts as the chief cause of the lengthy development time. Regardless of its past, Augur is now a live product with a bright future. Over 300 predictions have already been made, with the largest winning payout hitting $20,000. Betting volume even exceeded $1 million within the first weeks of launch.
Basic Attention Token (BAT)
📷 Basic Attention Token was one of the easiest projects to include on this list. That’s because its working product, Brave Browser, has more than 3 million active usersbetween its mobile and desktop platforms, making it one of the most widely-used working products in the blockchain space. Not only is Brave Browser functional, it’s the only browser on the market that has built-in ad-blocking and tracker blocking, making the browsing experience both cleaner and faster than what you get with other popular browsers like Chrome and Firefox. The future remains uncertain for the BAT token itself, as its adoption depends heavily on whether or not advertisers buy-in to the Brave model, as well as how willing Brave users are to be shown relevant ads and to pass along the BAT they earn to content publishers. Given Brave’s success in just a short time since being launched, though, the future does appear promising for BAT.
📷 Nano (formerly RaiBlocks) is all about scalability. The coin has nearly instant transactions with a completely fee-less structure. The platform accomplishes this by creating a unique blockchain for every account, preventing bloat and allowing for practically infinite scalability. Nano’s motto of “do one thing and do it well” has gotten them a long way. The team doesn’t have to deal with scaling or slowdown issues thanks to the underlying structure of the project, allowing its roadmap to focus on wallet updates and outreach. This is one cryptocurrency that’s essentially feature complete, and it has been for some time.
📷 Golem has set out to be the Airbnb of computing resources. Have you ever needed extra GPU power to finish up a render? How about processing scientific data similar to the [email protected] project? Even if you don’t have those needs, a lot of groups do. Golem aims to provide easy access to those resources, all of which are rentable for a small cryptocurrency fee. Golem hit the mainnet launch button in April 2018, and was met with a fair amount of fanfare. One of the main goals for the feature-incomplete launch was to push the product out so real users could put it to work. The team was interested in strengthening their interactions with end users to help guide the future of the platform. The team has several major milestones planned for the coming months, so the mainnet release is only just the beginning.
Pundi X (NPXS)
📷 Pundi X has been shooting up the market cap rankings so far in Q3 2018, and they also happen to have a working product that just recently became available to retailers. The primary Pundi X product is a point-of-sale (POS) device that enables quick and easy mobile transactions for both fiat and cryptocurrencies. 500 POS devices are already being used by retailers in Asia, and there are thousands more scheduled to be distributed in the coming months. In addition, Pundi X also offers XPASS cards, cryptocurrency credit cards that can work in place of mobile apps for making digital payments. What makes the Pundi X project noteworthy is that it enables consumers to pay retailers in cryptocurrencies like BTC and ETH, and it immediately converts the payments into local fiat currencies so that retailers don’t need to worry about price volatility of the cryptocurrencies. This makes it significantly easier for people to use cryptocurrencies in their daily lives, making Pundi X an exciting project for blockchain enthusiasts who are looking for signs of future mass adoption.
📷 Waves was the first ever blockchain platform that made it possible for anybody — regardless of their programming experience — to create blockchain tokens. Additionally, Waves has a decentralized exchange where tokens can be traded and exchanged with fiat currencies. Since the project’s first releases in 2016, Waves has gone on to make their DEX accessible from mobile phones and expanded its functionality significantly, while also building several strategic partnerships to help grow the Waves community and user base. Ultimately, though, the Waves Client is the project’s most important working product, as it is what allows tokens to be issued, stored, sent, and exchanged among users.
KuCoin Shares (KCS)
📷 Similar to Binance Coin, KuCoin Shares is an exchange token that can be used to pay reduced fees on cryptocurrency trades. KCS has the added bonus of paying dividends to long-term hodlers, as well, paying out a 5% ROI for most users. The nature of KuCoin Shares is one of the reasons the KuCoin exchange has gotten so much attention since it appeared on the scene. The tokens themselves are limited in scope, of course, but the sheer number of people using them for trades and buying them for passive income is enormous.
📷 Wanchain aims to build new and improved financial infrastructure to seamlessly connect the digital economy through blockchain interoperability. The use cases for Wanchain’s network are vast, and they include decentralized financial services, supply chain logistics, medical data sharing and security, digital ID management, and more. With the recently released Wanchain 2.0, it is now possible to transfer Ether cross-chain using Wanchain’s Ethereum Mapping Token, WETH. Ethereum interoperability is just the start, though, and it’s expected that cross-chain support for Bitcoin and a couple of ERC-20 tokens will follow before the end of 2018.
📷 Komodo is a fork of Zcash that uses the same zk-snark cryptography to hide information about transaction participants and amounts being sent. Functional privacy coins aren’t unique (there are a handful on this list) but Komodo does have some unique features. For one, Komodo was the first ever decentralized initial coin offering. Moreover, Komodo helps other developers to build their own customizable blockchain solutions, from building and securing independent blockchains and launching decentralized ICOs, to integrating projects into the cryptocurrency ecosystem. KMD would already qualify as a working product for its anonymity features on digital payments, but add the end-to-end blockchain building solution and it’s clear that Komodo is making meaningful contributions to the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
📷 Ardor is a scalable blockchain platform that allows businesses to create their own child chains and tokens with relative ease. This helps keep blockchain bloat to a minimum and provides multiple transactional tokens without sacrificing core chain transactions. It’s also a remarkably energy efficient platform that uses Proof-of-Stake to power consensus. Ardor launched its mainnet on January 1, 2018 after a full year in testnet status. Its core features are largely in place, with the roadmap set to improve things like scalability and snapshotting. The Blockchain-as-a-Service-platform hosts a few projects of its own, including the Ignis ICO, which was the first child chain on the mainnet.
Huobi Token (HT)
📷 Huobi is a digital asset exchange platform founded back in 2013, now offering well over 250 different trading pairs. The Huobi Token, meanwhile, is an ERC-20 token that is used on the exchange for discounts on trading fees of up to 50%. In addition, 20% of the income generated on the Huboi Pro trading platform is used to buy back HT on the open market. Unlike most buyback programs, the main purpose of Huobi’s program isn’t to reduce the circulating supply of HT. Rather, the HT that is bought back goes into a Huobi Investor Protection Fund, which is used to compensate Huobi users if they lose coins or tokens on the platform, as well as to ensure market stability and protect investor interests.
📷 ZenCash is yet another privacy coin with a working product in the Top 100, originally launched in the first half of 2017. What makes ZenCash unique is that it’s the first blockchain with Transport Layer Security (TLS) integration for node encryption, making communication on the ZenCash network both private and highly secure. Some other interesting parts of the ZenCash product include Tor nodes and built-in chat messaging services. In the future, the ZenCash team will deliver a DAO Treasury Protocol-level Voting System as well as a scalability solution to handle greater transaction volume.
📷 PIVX is another privacy coin that focuses on keeping users and their associated transactions hidden under a cloak of secrecy. The project also tries to keep transactions as fast and fee-less as possible, something not all privacy platforms can boast about. PIVX launched in January 2016. The coin is currently spendable and delivers the privacy features it promises, though it’s not yet a widely accepted currency by merchants. Future plans for PIVX include governance functions to engage the community, wallet voting, and its own zPIV decentralized exchange.
Kyber Network (KNC)
📷 Kyber Network launched their mainnet in Q1 2018, enabling instantaneous and secure inter-token settlements through a Decentralized Liquidity Network. It’s currently possible to swap ERC-20 tokens on the network with just a few mouse clicks, giving it some basic functionality that is already being used to improve liquidity for Ethereum tokens. In the future, however, Kyber Network will expand its functionality significantly in an effort to seamlessly connect dapps, DEXes, protocols, payment systems, token teams, investors, fund managers, and digital wallets.
📷 Bancor is a liquidity provider that enables users to exchange tokens without the need for a third-party to be involved in financing the transaction. Gaining liquidity is incredibly important for young cryptocurrency projects, as a lack of liquidity makes it risky for investors to buy a considerable amount of a given coin or token, knowing that it might be exceedingly difficult to sell should they wish to. Bancor’s technology makes it possible to convert one token to another, so that investors can be confident that they won’t be stuck involuntarily holding a cryptocurrency that they want to sell. This functionality makes the Bancor Liquidity Network one of the most promising working products on this list, and one that has already achieved a good deal of adoption.
Loom Network (LOOM)
📷 Loom Network is still less than a year old, having been founded in October 2017. However, they have accomplished a lot in that short time span, including having launched numerous tools to help software developers learn how to build blockchain solutions. The most important of these tools — and Loom’s biggest working product — is the Loom software development kit (SDK). However, Loom Network is far more than just a simple blockchain coding academy. It is also a production-ready scalability solution for Ethereum, as the Loom developer toolkit helps programmers to build highly scalable dapps which connect to the Ethereum blockchain through special side chains called DappChains. The project may still be in its infancy, but Loom Network is already contributing more utility to the cryptocurrency ecosystem than the vast majority of other cryptocurrency projects.
📷 Polymath wants to be the world’s go-to resource for security tokens on the blockchain. What Ethereum did for tokens, Polymath will do for securities. The advantages of this are enormous, but the Polymath team likes to point to 24/7 market access, the elimination of middlemen, and trading access for 2 billion unbanked people around the world as the chief benefits of their efforts. The Polymath platform launched in October 2017, and has since released a new security token every week, attracting investors and traders alike. It’s not as exciting of a project as some other blockchain tech, but it’s delivering on its promises with a working product.
Bibox Token (BIX)
📷 Bibox is a encrypted digital asset exchange whose primary differentiator from other crypto exchanges is that it integrates AI technology. The purpose of the AI is to help Bibox’s traders, which it does by providing quantitative computation and analysis of trading activity, personalized risk allocation strategy, speech recognition, and objective analysis of the various coins and tokens listed on the exchange. The Bibox exchange first launched back in November 2017. It has operation centers in the US, Canada, mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Estonia. BIX token holders receive 20% of the exchange profits, and also get discounts on trading fees, similar to Binance. https://www.investinblockchain.com/top-cryptocurrencies-working-products/
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